Lesotho [Country Flag of Lesotho]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Lesotho]



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Location: Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

Geographic coordinates: 29 30 S, 28 30 E

Map references: Africa

total: 30,350 sq km
land: 30,350 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland

Land boundaries:
total: 909 km
border countries: South Africa 909 km

Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims: none (landlocked)

Climate: temperate; cool to cold, dry winters; hot, wet summers

Terrain: mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m
highest point: Mount Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m

Natural resources: water, agricultural and grazing land, some diamonds and other minerals

Land use:
arable land: 11%
permanent crops: NA%
permanent pastures: 66%
forests and woodland: NA%
other: 23% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 30 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: periodic droughts

Environment—current issues: population pressure forcing settlement in marginal areas results in overgrazing, severe soil erosion, and soil exhaustion; desertification; Highlands Water Project controls, stores, and redirects water to South Africa

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping

Geography—note: landlocked; surrounded by South Africa


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Population: 2,089,829 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 40% (male 420,526; female 419,059)
15-64 years: 55% (male 558,068; female 596,598)
65 years and over: 5% (male 39,782; female 55,796) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.91% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 31.84 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 12.76 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 78.3 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.97 years
male: 52.18 years
female: 55.81 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 4.13 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho

Ethnic groups: Sotho 99.7%, Europeans 1,600, Asians 800

Religions: Christian 80%, rest indigenous beliefs

Languages: Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 71.3%
male: 81.1%
female: 62.3% (1995 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
former: Basutoland

Data code: LT

Government type: parliamentary constitutional monarchy

National capital: Maseru

Administrative divisions: 10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohale's Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka

Independence: 4 October 1966 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 4 October (1966)

Constitution: 2 April 1993

Legal system: based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal (constitutional amendment, July 1997)

Executive branch:
chief of state: King LETSIE III (since 7 February 1996, succeeded to the throne following the death of his father, King MOSHOESHOE II, on 16 January 1996); note—King LETSIE III formerly occupied the throne (November 1990 to February 1995) while his father was in exile
head of government: Prime Minister Ntsu MOKHEHLE (since 2 April 1993)
cabinet: Cabinet
elections: none; the king is a hereditary monarch, but, under the terms of the constitution which came into effect after the March 1993 election, he has no executive or legislative powers; moreover, under traditional law the king can be elected or deposed by a majority vote of the College of Chiefs; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins the most seats usually becomes prime minister

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (33 members—22 principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the ruling party) and the Assembly (65 seats; members elected for a five-year term by popular vote)
elections: last held 27 March 1993 (next to be held in May 1998)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—BCP 65
note: due to a schism in the BCP, Prime Minister Ntsu MOKHEHLE formed the new Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD in June 1997, taking 42 seats away from the BCP, reducing it to 23 seats and the role of an opposition party

Judicial branch: High Court, Chief Justice appointed by the king; Court of Appeal; Magistrate's Court; customary or traditional court

Political parties and leaders:
ruling party: Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Dr. Ntsu MOKHEHLE, leader; Shakhane MOKHEHLE, secretary general]
opposition party: Basotho National Party or BNP [Evaristus SEKHONYANA]; Basotholand Congress Party or BCP [Molapo QHOBELA]; Ha Reeng ('Let's Go') Basotho Party or HBP [Khauta KHASU]; Lesotho Labor Party or LLP [Mamolefi RANTHIMO]; Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP [Vincent MALEBO]; National Progressive Party or NPP [Chief Peete Nkoebe PEETE, leader]; Sefate Democratic Union or SDU [Bofihla NKUEBE]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Charles MOFELI]

International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFCTU, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dr. Eunice M. BULANE
chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533 through 5536
FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Bismarck MYRICK
embassy: 254 Kingsway, Maseru West (Consular Section)
mailing address: P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
telephone: [266] 312666
FAX: [266] 310116

Flag description: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white, bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner


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Economy—overview: Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho has no important natural resources other than water. Its economy is based on agriculture, light manufacturing, and remittances from miners employed in South Africa. The number of such mine workers has declined steadily over the past five years; in 1996 their remittances added about 33% to GDP compared with the addition of roughly 67% in 1990. Manufacturing depends largely on farm products which support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. Recent foreign investments will enable Lesotho to export garments made from imported textiles. Although drought has decreased agricultural activity over the past few years, completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 now permits the sale of water to South Africa and will support the economy's continued expansion. The pace of the privatization of state-owned firms increased toward the end of 1994.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$5.1 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 9% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$2,500 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 10%
industry: 53%
services: 37% (1997)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 8.7% (1996 est.)

Labor force:
total: 689,000 economically active
by occupation: 86% of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa

Unemployment rate: substantial unemployment and underemployment effecting more than half of the labor force (1996 est.)

revenues: $507 million
expenditures: $487 million, including capital expenditures of $170 million (FY96/97 est.)

Industries: food, beverages, textiles, handicrafts; construction; tourism

Industrial production growth rate: 19.7% (1995)

Electricity—capacity: 0 kW (1995)
note: electricity supplied by South Africa

Electricity—production: 0 kWh (1995)
note: electricity supplied by South Africa

Electricity—consumption per capita: 163 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock

total value: $218 million (f.o.b., 1996 est.)
commodities: clothing, wool, footwear, road vehicles, mohair (1995)
partners: South African Customs Union 52%, North America 38%, EU 9% (1995)

total value: $1.1 billion (c.i.f., 1996 est.)
commodities: corn, clothing, building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products (1993)
partners: South African Customs Union 90%, Asia 6%, EU 2% (1995)

Debt—external: $517 million (FY95/96 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $NA

Currency: 1 loti (L) = 100 lisente
note: maloti (M) is the plural form of loti

Exchange rates: maloti (M) per US$1—4.94193 (January 1998), 4.60796 (1997), 4.29935 (1996), 3.62709 (1995), 3.55080 (1994), 3.26774 (1993); note—the Basotho loti is at par with the South African rand

Fiscal year: 1 April—31 March


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Telephones: 12,000 (1991 est.)

Telephone system: rudimentary system
domestic: consists of a few landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a minor radiotelephone communication system
international: satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 4, shortwave 0

Radios: 66,000

Television broadcast stations: 1

Televisions: 11,000 (1992 est.)


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total: 2.6 km; note—owned by, operated by, and included in the statistics of South Africa
narrow gauge: 2.6 km 1.067-m gauge (1995)

total: 4,955 km
paved: 887 km
unpaved: 4,068 km (1996 est.)

Ports and harbors: none

Airports: 29 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 3
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 26
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 22 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Lesotho Defense Force (LDF; includes Army and Air Wing), Royal Lesotho Mounted Police (RLMP)

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 490,128 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 264,255 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none